Foot and Ankle Pain Specialist
Foot and ankle pain can be a nuisance in a person’s life, especially if it happens frequently. The best way to prevent this type of pain, is to exercise often. Regular exercise of the foot includes stretching and strength exercises. Stretching exercises can help prevent injuries such as a sprained ankle, while strength exercises can prevent ailments such as plantar fasciitis.
Stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and the foot and ankle’s range of motion. These exercises can certainly help with those who participate in high-energy activities such as sports. Many athletes routinely perform foot and ankle exercises to prevent injuries like sprained ankles, which are common injuries where the tendons in the ankle are over stretched. Strength exercises help develop foot muscles for better support and protection.
Most exercises are simple and can be done at home, either standing or sitting. One chair exercise is called “limber up”. In this exercise, a person would start by sitting down with their feet flat on the floor. Then lift one leg up so the feet are not touching the floor, then rotate your foot clockwise 15-20 times, and 15-20 times counterclockwise. Repeat the same process with the opposite leg. Another sitting exercise helps stretch the back of your heel and requires an exercise band. It begins by looping the band around a heavy piece of furniture, or something stable that will not be moved when the band is tugged or pulled. Then sit directly in front of it, and slide one foot into the loop, so that the band curves around the forefoot. Start by pulling the forefoot back and holding it for 5-10 seconds. Doing this 10-15 times on each foot, will stretch the back of your heel, increasing your flexibility.
Foot exercises that require standing are also just as easy and simple. Referred as the “Achilles Stretch”, this exercise stretches the Achilles tendon, making it more flexible, helping prevent foot, ankle, and leg pain. It begins by first standing and facing the wall, with the arms outstretched and the palms on the wall. Then place one foot behind another keeping the back leg straight, and the forward leg bending at the knee. Make sure both heels are flat on the floor and adjust your stance accordingly. With your hips, lean forward to feel the stretch, you can also adjust the distance from your feet to feel the stretch in various parts of the calf. Make sure to hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat the same process 3 times with each leg. An even easier foot exercise is simply walking on sand. Walking barefoot on sand both strengthens and stretches your feet.
Doing these exercises regularly can help prevent many foot and ankle problems. Other foot exercises can even relieve pain. For example, those affected with plantar fasciitis can simply sit down on a chair, and then place a tennis ball below their affected foot. By rolling the ball under the foot, and increasing or decreasing pressure, pain will be relieved. With any exercise, it is always important to do a small warmup such as walking a few laps around the house to get the blood flowing. If after doing an exercise to relieve pain such as the tennis ball exercise, or are unsure that your execution is correct, be sure to contact a podiatrist for further instruction.
Our bones are important aspects of our body and they are constantly changing. The heavier the workload for a bone, the more likely it is that calcium will be placed in it. When a bone isn’t used often, there won’t be much calcium within it. When stress from repetitive loads prevent the bone from being able to repair itself, cracks will start to form. Stress fractures are defined as cracks in a bone that result from repetitive force, such as overuse.
The most common cause of stress fractures is a sudden increase in intensity and duration of physical activity. For example, if you begin to run long distances without working your way into doing so, you will be more likely to develop a stress fracture.
Common symptoms of stress fractures are pain and swelling near the weight bearing area on the injured bone. When initial x-rays are performed, it is possible that the fracture will not show up. However, once the stress on the area continues, the damage will increase, and the fracture will be severe enough to show up on an x-ray. Certain parts of the foot are more likely to develop stress fractures than others. Areas that typically have these fractures are: the metatarsals, the navicular bone, the calcaneus, tibia, and fibula.
Since women are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, they are twice as likely as men to sustain a stress fracture. Additionally, old age causes a decrease in bone mineral density which is why elderly people are also likely to develop these fractures.
It is important for you to be professionally diagnosed by a podiatrist if you suspect you have a stress fracture, because there are other injuries that can easily be mistaken for a fracture. Sprains, strains, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and Morton’s neuroma can all easily be mistaken for stress fractures in the foot. Your podiatrist will likely ask you a series of questions to determine what type of pain you are experiencing. These questions will help your doctor identify whether you have a stress fracture.
The best method of treatment for a stress fracture is rest. Additionally, a walking boot, cast, or crutches, will help rest the area that is injured. The typical healing time for stress fractures is 4-12 weeks, however this depends on which bone is involved.
Gout, typically found in diabetic patients, is an unusually painful form of arthritis caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. The condition typically strikes the big joint on the big toe. It has also been known to strike the knees, elbows, fingers, ankles and wrists—generally anywhere that has a functioning, moving joint.
The high level of uric acid in a person’s bloodstream creates the condition known as hyperuricema—the main cause of gout. Genetic predisposition occurs in nine out of ten sufferers. The children of parents who suffer gout will have a two in ten chance of developing the condition as well.
This form of arthritis, being particularly painful, is the leftover uric acid crystallizing in the blood stream. The crystallized uric acid then travels to the space between joints where they rub, causing friction when the patient moves. Symptoms include: pain, redness, swelling, and inflammation. Additional side effects may include fatigue and fever, although reports of these effects are very rare. Some patients have reported that pain may intensify when the temperature drops, such as when you sleep.
Most cases of gout are easily diagnosed by a podiatrist’s assessment of the various symptoms. Defined tests can also be performed. A blood test to detect elevated levels of uric acid is often used as well as an x-ray to diagnose visible and chronic gout.
Treatment for gout simply means eliminating symptoms. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs (Colchicine and other corticosteroid drugs, etc.) will quell the redness, the swelling, and the inflammation. However, managing your diet, lifestyle changes, and using preventative drugs are all helpful toward fully combating the most severe cases.
Those that lead an inactive lifestyle are at a higher risk for gout. Any amount of exercise decreases the probability of repeat encounters with the condition. Reducing your consumption of red meat, sea food, and fructose-sweetened drinks also reduces the likelihood of chronic gout as well.
Ingesting Vitamin C, coffee, and particular dairy products can help with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are new drugs out on the market that inhibit the body’s production of uric acid-producing enzymes. However, reducing or eliminating your overall levels of uric acid is the best remedy to ensuring you lead a gout-free life.
The branch of medicine that is focused on the treatment, diagnosis, and study of disorders of the lower leg, ankle and foot is referred to as podiatry. Because people often spend a great deal of their time on their feet, many problems in this area can occur. A person seeks help from the field of podiatry when they need treatment for heel spurs, bunions, arch problems, deformities, ingrown toenails, corns, foot and ankle problems, infections, and problems with the foot that are related to diabetes and additional diseases.
To treat problems of the foot, ankle or lower leg, a podiatrist may prescribe physical therapy, drugs, perform surgery, or set fractures. Individuals may also be recommended to wear corrective shoe inserts, custom-made shoes, plaster casts and strappings in order to correct deformities.
When trying to gather information on a patient problem, a scanner or force plate may be used in order to design orthotics. During this procedure, patients are told to walk across a plate that is connected to a computer; the computer then takes a scan of the foot and indicates weight distribution and pressure points. The computer readouts will give the podiatrist information to help them determine the correct treatment plans.
Diagnosis is also provided through laboratory tests and x-rays. Through the foot, the first signs of serious problems such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis can show up. For example, individuals that have diabetes may frequently have problems such as infections and foot ulcers because they experience poor circulation in the foot area. A podiatrist can then have consultations with patients when symptoms arise. Referrals will then be made to specialists that handle the greater health problems.
Some podiatrists have their own independent, private practices or clinics where they have a small staff and administrative personnel. Many podiatrists work within group practices. They usually spend time performing surgery in ambulatory surgical centers or hospitals, or visit patients in nursing homes. Podiatrists typically spend between 30 to 60 hours of week working. Some podiatrists specialize in public health, orthopedics, surgery, or primary care. Other fields include specialties in geriatrics, dermatology, pediatrics, diabetic foot care and sports medicine.
Some podiatrist specialists complete extra training in the area of foot and ankle reconstruction that results from the effects of physical trauma or diabetes. There are also surgeons that perform surgery of a cosmetic nature to correct bunions and hammertoes.